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James R. Stout

The Fog

            I was newly divorced. It wasn’t what I wanted, but along with the sadness of it all there was also relief. The ordeal of experiencing the marriage fall apart over the last 5 years or so plus the process of getting the divorce had left me spent and ready for a new trail to blaze. My two kids, both out of high school and busy with their own interests, were rarely at home anymore. But they had chosen to live with me in the house. There really wasn’t much choice for that matter. Their mother had wanted her freedom and moved out prior to the divorce being final into a one-bedroom apartment. Not exactly room there for anyone but herself and her new guy. But I was more than happy to have the kids live with me. That said, I would be a liar if I didn’t say that when they were off doing their own things, I alternated between being lonely and enjoying the solitude.

            One Saturday afternoon my daughter came home from her part-time job and said that she was going to spend the night at a friend’s house. Not long after that my son came home and told me that he and his two best friends were going to a concert that night and then crash at one of his friend’s houses. About 4 p.m. I was sitting in the recliner in the living room and I decided that I needed a change of scenery, however brief it might be. So, I packed an overnight bag, got in the car, and drove down to Galveston. I didn’t have a plan other than to just get away for a day and night. By the time I got to the island it was already dark. I drove down to the seawall and trolled westward looking for an inexpensive motel to spend the night in that would have a view of the Gulf of Mexico. I found a room in a chain motel and the room had a balcony that would allow me to sit outside and listen to the surf, smell the salt air, and look at the waves as they came ashore. That was the plan.

            Just as I was parking the car at the motel and making my way to the side entrance that would lead to the elevator to take me to my room on the third floor, a fog about as thick as I have ever seen rolled in off the sea and it brought with it a muggy sticky soup that seemed to envelope me in a cloak that was apropos regarding my frame of mind. I entered my room, threw the overnight bag on the bed, and went to the sliding glass door that lead to the balcony. I opened the drapes and was thrilled to see that the fog was so thick I couldn’t even see the parked cars below. NOT! I wasn’t hungry yet, so I laid on the bed and watched some cable TV while I thought about what I wanted to do. An hour later I had decided to go to an Italian restaurant down on Seawall Blvd that I had been to before. I liked their pizza.      

            As I made my way down to the car in the parking lot the fog was just as thick as it had been an hour earlier. I would not be deterred though. I drove down to the restaurant, went inside, and was seated at a table for two by a window that looked out on a side street. I ordered my pizza and as I waited, I did some thinking. I saw a few couples sitting together and laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. I couldn’t help but envy them. It would have been nice to be sharing my meal with someone. I wasn’t yet accustomed to eating alone in restaurants. I got over that before long. I watched as several classic cars drove into a parking lot on the side street and the drivers all got out to check out each other’s rides. There was a 1971 Chevy Nova SS, a 1967 Chevy Impala SS, a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda, and several other very nicely restored classic cars. The waitress delivered my pizza and smiled at me in a way that made me feel like perhaps I wasn’t Quasimodo after all. After the divorce I felt that I must be unlovable. Break out your violins!

            The fog was unrelenting. I ate my pizza and watched as the yellow orbs of light coming from passing cars appeared and then faded away as they passed the restaurant. I took notice of the red tail lights as well and decided that there must be a fad at the time with vehicle designers to make the tail lights look like angry cat eyes. After I finished my dinner, I wanted to take a walk down the seawall, but it was just too foggy to do so. I got back in my car and I sat there for a few minutes trying to decide what to do next. I finally settled on the only reasonable thing to do. Go back to my motel room and crash. How exciting.

            Now here’s the part where things took a turn. When I drove into the parking lot of the motel the fog was thick as ever. But in the short amount of time between getting out of my car and making it back into my room something happened. I looked out the sliding glass door of the balcony and it was crisp and clear outside. I couldn’t believe the difference. There were a couple of chairs on the balcony and I sat down, and it was like someone had removed severe cataracts from my eyes and now I could see everything. Way out in the distance sea I saw the lights from some oil rigs and a large ship passing somewhere between them and where I sat. I could see down Seawall Blvd in both directions and the night had suddenly come alive. Neon signs and colorful billboards advertising the many things to do in Galveston filled my eyes. It wasn’t just the sights that were now crisp and clear. The night had come alive with the sounds of the city by the sea. The susurrant waves that were a lullaby of calm, the cacophony of voices of people in conversations along the Seawall and in the parking lot, the swishing sounds of automobile tires as they drove on the damp payment, and the distant sounds of more than one car stereo were like a perfectly orchestrated piece of music. My mood was instantly transformed. I sat there and started to think about where I was in life at the time and I realized that the whole evening had been an allegory of what was unfolding in my life. The fog would lift. It would happen suddenly and wonderfully. There would be wonderous life after the divorce.

            And so there has been. That evening was about 16 years ago. There has been and is a wonderful life for me. I have 5 beautiful granddaughters now. I have my two kids. I am older, but I’m also retired and now free to do many things that I once could only dream of doing. Life can get us down. Nobody survives without a few scars and memories of scars, but there were things to learn from those experiences. If you find yourself in a fog, a dark place, a sad place in your life, don’t give up. At any moment while you aren’t looking the fog could lift. Nothing is permanent. We can’t go back, and perhaps that is a true blessing, so we must go forward even when it feels like we’re just standing still. Start wearing a watch. Nothing fancy. A cheap digital $10 model will do. Take note that time keeps on ticking by. It doesn’t stand still. Make the best of that time and look for the fog to clear. It will clear and most likely when you least expect it. Live a life worth living. The choice is yours.

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